3.31.2018

Easter Weekend FUN - with FAMILY!


Easter Weekend - in Fresno!
We wanted to do something different for Easter this year, 
so we asked Steven & CC if we could spend it with them - and they said YES!
Nonstop action, conversation, and noise have taken place since we arrived - and it is WONDERFUL!
Today we enjoyed an Easter Brunch complete with a traditional Egg Hunt, Games, Face Painting, and a Petting Zoo. It was a festive and fun way to spend the morning!



I discovered a new job opportunity!
A Holiday Ambassador! “Bridging the gap of fear between children and holiday icons.” 
{Easter bunny, Santa Claus etc.}
After watching child after child scream in fear when placed in the lap of the giant bunny by smiling parents at the Easter event, I decided to try an experiment.
I asked the woman inside the bunny if she would hug me and let me hug her so the kids could see that despite her gigantic head and incisors, she is sweet and lovable. 🐇💗
It worked for my niece, so hopefully, it helped other children smile (not scream) when they were forced to take the obligatory Easter Bunny photo.


Roman, Lorenzo, Josiah, Ellie, and Isaiah enjoying their spoils after the Egg Hunt.


We did it!
We actually managed to get a photo of the siblings - all at the same time!
And - I LIKE US! ❤


What would a holiday event be without a few selfies?
And who better to take them with than Dennis and my teens?
I love my men!


Dennis, Steven, the teens, and the kids - not one of them wanted to take advantage of the various photo ops available. So - CC and I decided to have photo fun on our own!
We also planned to get our faces painted with Olivia and Sofia, but children kept cutting in front of us. While frustrated, we chose to be gracious and give up rather than elbowing our way through a crowd of toddlers and little girls to get our way.
(I will admit however, I was disappointed that we didn't get to see the looks on the faces of the painters when we requested "the ascension of Jesus" as our facial art. <grin>)



My brother, Steven, is one of the most faithful, stable, and supportive people in my life.
No matter what - we always have each other. And for this, I am incredibly thankful.


All together!
Just the way I LOVE it! ♥

3.29.2018

The best place to be.

As long as thou and thy sins are at peace, God and thy soul must be at war. - Spurgeon

The Christian who has stopped repenting has stopped growing. - A. W. Pink

Praise God that He did not leave us to fight the battle of sin alone!
Though we are fully justified by the blood of Jesus Christ - 
forgiven for every sin the day we are saved and sealed by the Holy Spirit -
the process of sanctification is a lifelong process.

A daily choice to choose the Savior over sin.
A daily choice to surrender everything, including ourselves, to the Lord.
A daily choice to walk in obedience rather than rebellion.

The best part?
We never have to do so alone!

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, 
He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
John 14:26

When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, ...
 John 16:13

And then - He did even more!
He gave us each other.

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, 
leading you to fall away from the living God. 
But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” 
that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin
For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
As it is said, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
Hebrews 3:12-15

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!
Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?
And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—
a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 3:9-12

Thank You, Lord, for the gift of Your Word, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the gift of prayer, and the gift of the body of Christ. Each one is valuable, necessary, and profitable as we pursue holiness, seeking to look less like ourselves and more like You every day. Make us at war with our sin so we can be at peace with You ... for there is no better place to be.

3.28.2018

A wonderful Easter event!


What a wonderful way to spend Palm Sunday!
Brilliant works of art,
Glorious music,
And Scripture. 

I took Micah, Luke, and Caleb when they were young, and now Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie have experienced “living art.” And they were captivated!

Though I knew what to expect, I was still moved to tears, and let them fall freely during the last tableau - The Ascension of Christ - while the choir sang the Hallelujah Chorus with passion.

It is a joy to watch others use the gifts God has given them to bring attention and glory to His name!

3.27.2018

The Ministry of PRESENCE is a beautiful thing!

The philosophy behind the "ministry of presence" is something I continually praise God for when I am called upon to minister to the brokenhearted. Every time I sit across from a brother or sister suffering in sorrow, the more I understand a very simple yet fundamental truth: I have very little to offer - except myself.
I cannot change the past. I cannot solve every problem. I cannot make promises. I cannot predict when their pain will cease. But - there is something I can do. I can be PRESENT, so they do not have to be alone.

Holding a hand, weeping with the one who weeps, praying, listening, offering a hug, or just sitting together in silence can be incredibly encouraging - and effective.
And often, that is all they want. They know we cannot make everything better, change anything, or make the pain go away. They want to know they are not alone. That someone hears them. And loves them. As they are. In that moment.

Believing someone loves us and hurts for us because they love us, 
far exceeds their ability to understand the details of our pain.

It is impossible to know, comprehend, and identify with every personal trial of those we love unless we have walked through that same darkness. And even if we have, the details and responses look different for each person. What soothes and comforts one sister can be offensive to another. Only the Lord knows what each broken heart needs, so we must bathe ourselves in prayer before looking into the eyes of the sufferer so we can speak the words the Father gives us, at just the right time.

We do not need to understand everything.
We do not need to know what to say.
We do not need to be comfortable, for it is not about us.
We just need to be THERE.
And let the Lord sort out the details.

It took me a long time to learn this. Too long.
I always thought I needed to have the perfect words, the perfect Bible verse to quote, brilliant spiritual thoughts, and all the answers in order to be an effective friend in time of need.
But now I know ...
if I say nothing
do nothing
solve nothing ...
my presence is enough.
Not because I have anything to offer, but because my God has EVERYthing to offer.

When a brother or sister is grieving and in the depths of despair, the pit is cold, dark, lonely and deep.
They need someone to shine LIGHT into the darkness.
Jesus is the light of the world!
He lives in us.
When we climb into the pit of suffering to comfort a brother or sister, we shine God's light into the darkness, and HOPE is born.

On our own, we cannot bring healing and joy to the broken heart of another.
But we can take her to the feet of the One who created her, died for her, and loves her.
And then, sit back and watch Him take those broken pieces, and make her whole once again.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I hope; Psalm 130:5

3.24.2018

Wedding FUN with FRIENDS!


Another Haugland wedding in the books! And, as always, it was a BLAST!
This family knows how to have a good time - and they invite everyone to join in!


My sweet friend Jill.
She is one of the most encouraging, faithful, joyful, compassionate, God-fearing women I know.
And she calls me friend! 


These two.
Oh.my. GOODNESS!
You cannot be with them for more than two minutes without laughing.
When the Photo Booth opened I simply said, "Let's take a picture!"
Before I knew it I was covered with Haugland sisters - legs and all!


And then it was Marisol's turn!
She is a sister-in-law, and just as crazy as the others!
(I love that they let me pretend I am a Haugland. ♥)


Prom Pose!
Mike and Tiffany are the parents of the groom.
Mike was a sophomore in high school when Dennis was a youth counselor.
By the time Mike graduated, they were FRIENDS. And have been so ever since.
We have a long history with Mike and Tiffany, and for this we are thankful!



You wouldn't guess it to look at them, but these two can bust some moves on the dance floor! 
They are hard enough to control when they are just talking to each other, so letting them loose on a dance floor is always a risk. But - they put smiles on everyone's faces and make us all laugh!
Tonight Dennis chose to do "The Elaine." HiLARious!


The hosts of the reception had the brilliant idea to provide throws and ponchos for the guests as it was a cold, damp night after a week of rain. Dennis and I were laughing at everyone donning the woven cloth, complete with images of running wild horses and soaring eagles. And yet, "when in Rome ..."
So, at the end of the night we pulled them over our heads and posed for the camera.
Everyone should own a poncho! Those things are like a nice warm HUG!


And last, but certainly not least - the Bride & Groom!
❤May you enjoy decades of "outdoing one another in love," Michael and Delaney!❤

Thank you for inviting us to your son's wedding, Mike and Tiffany.
It was a wonderful night and we were blessed to share in your joy! 

3.23.2018

DEVOTION. Not desertion!

Have you ever been reading Scripture when a verse jumps off the page and surprises you?
This very thing happened to me today.

Paul writes:
Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. II Timothy 4:9,10

Oh - my - WORD!
Can you imagine having your name and actions forever recorded on a page of Scripture this way?
A deserter, one who abandoned an apostle of Jesus in his time of need.
And not for a good reason. No sickness. No emergency at home. Just SIN. He loved his sin more than the Savior. So he left the work of the Gospel to pursue worldly pleasures.
And he will now be known as the faithless friend, until the end of time.

The dictionary definition of the word faithful reads ...
faith·ful
adjective
Loyal, constant, steadfast
1: steadfast in affection or allegiance
2: firm in adherence to promises or in observance of duty
3: given with strong assurance
4: true to the facts, to a standard, or to an original
synonyms: loyal, constant, true, devoted, true-blue, unswerving, staunch, steadfast, dedicated, committed

Demas failed to live up to this definition.
And worse, he failed to meet God's expectations of faithfulness.

Only fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things He has done for you. I Samuel 12:24

Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. Proverbs 3:3

Love the Lord, all you His saints! The Lord preserves the faithful, but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride. Psalm 31:23

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17

There are countless examples of disobedient men and women in Scripture. 
Adam & Eve - Cain - Jonah - Eli - King Saul - Ananias & Sapphira - Euodia and Syntyche - Judas
Each name evokes negative thoughts. Their reputations tainted. Forever.

BUT GOD.
With the long list of disobedient and defiant men, women, and peoples recorded between the covers of His Word, God also highlights the lovely, the righteous, and the faithful. Praise Him for providing excellent examples of how to live, and how not to live. 

"For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica."
How not to live.

Contrasted with this wonderful passage.
And while He (Jesus) was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as He was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over His head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. 
But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to Me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have Me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” Mark 14:3-9

How TO live.

May we all seek to be like this woman! Wholly, purposefully, and passionately surrendered to the service of the Lord.

3.18.2018

TRUTH! Not lies!

If you think you've blown God's plan for your life, rest in this:
You, my friend, are not that powerful.

*
*
*

When I first read this quote, I laughed out loud.
And then, I started thinking about it.
How often do we find ourselves saying things that are absolutely ridiculous, even unbiblical
when we are in the pit of despair?
We doubt God's ability to forgive. 
We doubt His love.
We think He will never be able to use us because of our mistakes.
We believe we change the course of heaven's plans as if our choices actually affect God's sovereignty.

This is why we must continually and purposefully take our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ and replace emotions and doubt and the lies of the enemy with TRUTH.
And there is only one place truth can be found - in Scripture!
We must, must, must be in the Word to fill our minds with what is TRUE so we are able to stop the fiery darts zinging toward us from the hands of the enemy.
He loves to fill our minds with doubt and despair. But we cannot allow him to do so. 
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

BE ENCOURAGED!
"If you think you've blown God's plan for your life, rest in this:
You, my friend, are not that powerful."

Though I laughed when I first read it, this quote is absolutely true.
How do I know? Because Scripture tells me so!

I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. Job 42:2

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
Proverbs 19:21

And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion 
at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6

The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; Your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. 
Do not forsake the work of Your hands. Psalm 138:8

*
*
*

AMEN! And thank You, Lord, for the TRUTH of these verses!

3.17.2018

This and that.

We finished another level of reading!
(I say "we" because I rejoice as much and as loudly as our children after walking through each and every step with them. It is a joint effort to be sure.)
When I think of where they were a year ago, how they could barely eek out a one-syllable word, I am awed by their progress and sing the praises to the Lord who allowed it to happen.
Who knew that listening to my children sound out FOUR syllable words could be so incredibly satisfying?!?
Thank You, Lord!

~~~ It rained three times this week! REAL rain! (As opposed to the scattered and minuscule drops we generally witness when the weatherman declares, "Rain is coming to southern California!") How refreshing it was to wake up to water falling from the sky and enjoy the heightened color of nature after the heavenly cleansing. I l o v e rain! And the clouds after a rain? WOW! WOW! WOW! I cannot take my eyes off of them!

Another Eastman is now behind the wheel.
Luke passed his permit test. Woohoo!
He has been waiting for this moment since he was about, well, three years old.
Seriously.
Luke is a highly motivated individual in general, but when there is something he wants there is absolutely nothing that can stop him.
He will work harder, longer, earn more money, study - whatever it takes.
Of course, he had to learn the ever-important lesson that PATIENCE is part of the package. Hard work does not make time go faster, money is not waiting on your pillow when you wake up in the morning, and often, there are things that are completely out of your control. All of them good lessons for LIFE!
The "new driver" rule in the Eastman house is simple. The teen spends one month behind the wheel with Dennis - listening, learning, obeying the rules - and then, when he deems the teen a "safe driver" he moves to the Thunder Bus, and drives with me. This is a big deal because he is now carrying precious cargo - his siblings!
A HIGH level of accountability!
It's fantastic!

~~~ Dennis has the privilege of traveling four times this calendar year. This is not a normal itinerary, but we are glad to let him go because he and his colleagues are doing Kingdon Work - and it matters!
This year he will spend time in Lebanon, Canada (Prince Edward Island to be exact!), Jordan, and Cambodia. As always, the team will be training and encouraging teachers and administrators who work tirelessly to serve rescued children.

There is a new and exciting piece to his travels this year. Micah will be going with him to Jordan!
An administrator from Jordan was present at Dennis' "Walk A Mile In My Shoes" seminar (about learning and special needs) in Lebanon two years ago. She went home and told her team, "We need this guy!" A year later they extended the offer for him to speak in their country - and - invited Micah to join him as a voice for students with learning needs! Dennis will speak about the education, science side of learning/special needs, and Micah will speak on the emotional struggles and stresses.
They have already started preparing and Dennis is THRILLED to have Micah join him in this.
Who knows what the Lord has planned for this tag-team adventure!
*** We do have to raise $2,000 for Micah's expenses (most of it plane fare), so if you have any creative fundraising ideas, please send them my way! Other than reviving Camp Eastman, we are drawing a blank. BUT GOD will provide for it was Him who brought this together!

Caleb, Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie are studying astronomy this year - and they LOVE it!
Living in God's created universe is a delight, but studying about its vastness and perfect design for human life makes us appreciate Him and His creation even more.
(photo: making their own mini volcanoes after studying those on Mars)
We will end our school year with a visit to the Griffith Observatory, and I think I may be more excited than they are about that trip! <grin>
We also get to enjoy a personal tour of JPL in May because P.J. (the Father of our G3) is actually a rocket scientist and invited us to the NASA Lab! That is going to be one great day!

Funny story!
Due to a generous monetary gift from my grandfather at Christmas, we were finally able to replace our old and poorly working television. We need help installing and connecting it, and guess who volunteered? P.J.!
He told us he would call us if he needed us, so Julie and I sat on the couch talking without pausing while he began sorting through the contents and devising a plan of attack.
I was bragging, "I will forever be able to tell people that a rocket scientist installed our television! How cool is THAT?!?"
Just then, he interrupted us. "Ladies, can you help me for a second?"
Now I get to tell people that I assisted a rocket scientist??? This day just keeps getting BETTER!
Julie and I eagerly walked over to offer our fantastic skills, only to hear P.J. say, "I am going to hold the T.V. Can you pull off the box and move it out of the way?"
What? That's IT?
So much for saying I assisted a genius. All I can say now is, "I moved a box." <insert eye roll here>
HA! HA!

~~~ Happy Saturday!
I pray you will enjoy a great night of physical and emotional rest so you are able to fully engage in worship with the body of Christ tomorrow.
The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God. - C.S. Lewis

3.14.2018

Remembering our son, Matthew.


This was the sky that greeted me this morning.
Bright blue.
Clear as clear can be.
Soft, white, fluffy clouds.
A gentle breeze.

A perfect backdrop for the day we remember and honor the life of our son, Matthew.

Twelve years.
It has been twelve years since my doctor looked at me with a downcast face saying, 
"I think you are miscarrying."
Twelve years since I held our son in my arms, washing his tiny face with my tears.
Twelve years since I watched my husband fall apart when he unwrapped our son so his best friend could see him - and dedicate him to the Lord.
Twelve years since hearing our dear friend read these beautiful verses from Psalm 119:73-77 ...
Your hands made me and fashioned me;
Give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments.
May those who fear You see me and be glad, Because I wait for Your word.
I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous,
And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.
O may Your lovingkindness comfort me, According to Your word to Your servant.
May Your compassion come to me that I may live, For Your law is my delight.
Twelve years since I sat on my hospital bed saying, "Lord, this has to be bigger than me losing my baby. I am not the first woman and I certainly won't be the last. There has to be more."

Twelve years.

In the beginning, I wondered if I would laugh again.
I wondered if the tears would ever cease.
If the painful ache to know my son and feel him in my arms would diminish.
If anyone would remember him.
If he knew I was his mom and would recognize me in heaven.
I wondered so many things through my sorrow and my tears.

And the Lord faithfully walked beside me every single one of those days - 
and turned my mourning into joy and my weeping into laughter.

And why would He not?
He is a God who "heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."
Because He does so faithfully, we can echo the words of the Psalmist,
"This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your promise gives me LIFE." Psalm 119:50

And like the bright blue sky that follows a storm, 
Weeping may last through the night, but JOY comes in the morning! Psalm 30:5

3.13.2018

I want to laugh!

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. Proverbs 31:25

This is one of my favorite Scripture verses.
Strength.
Dignity.
Laughing at the future.
What a wonderful way to live!
The only way we can laugh at the future is to fully trust in the God who controls it.
We can only see NOW. He sees into eternity.
We have no idea what is ahead, and we can be pretty sure we will not like everything that awaits us, but we can stand confident and secure, ready to face whatever may come, because we know who HE is. A God who cannot lie. A God who promises He will never leave us or forsake us. A God who gives us wisdom whenever we ask. A God who is full of mercy and unlimited grace. A God who loves us with an everlasting love.

On my trip, I searched for one item in each state to take home as a memento of my time with my sweet sisters. In North Carolina, I found a lovely pewter bookmark, embossed with the state flower: the flowering dogwood. In Tennessee, I chose a coffee mug from Biscuit Love with the phrase, "Bless Your Start" imprinted on it. (A twist on the southern phrase "Bless yer heart" which, apparently, is a euphemism for, "Oh ... what an idiot." Makes me laugh every time I hear it!) And in Indiana, I found a treasure at a charming little shop in Newburgh called The Refinery. An ID bracelet etched with the phrase "she can laugh." It was perfect. And every time I look at it, I smile.

In a world that continually (though impossibly) tries to silence God, it was a delight to see His name and the words of Scripture boldly and joyfully displayed in the public square. 

Not only did I choose the bracelet because it highlights one of my favorite verses, I chose it because of the truth behind the entire Identity in Christ line.
I spent far too much of my life looking at myself through the lens of the world and what others thought of me rather than seeing myself as God sees me. Who I am in Christ is the only way I want to be identified. I am His. And nothing can snatch me out of His hands. 

God lovingly chose to create us in His image, and through the sacrifice of His Son, we were cleansed from all unrighteousness.
Because of this wonderful gift, we need never question our value or our worth for we stand perfect and COMPLETE in Jesus Christ - and safe and secure in the arms of the Father.

It is this safety and security, knowing who we are in Christ, that gives us the ability to laugh at the future. I want to be a woman who laughs. A woman who laughs because she is free from bondage and free from the opinions and criticisms of others. A woman who laughs because she was fearfully and wonderfully made and her soul knows it. A woman who laughs because even though she does not know what the future holds, she knows the One who holds the future.

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. Proverbs 31:25
Lord, may this verse become a synopsis of my life. Make me into a woman who believes "she can laugh" at anything and everything because her confidence is not in her circumstances or in people, but solely in You.

3.12.2018

I have to remember.

Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually.
Remember the wondrous works that He has done,
His miracles and the judgments He uttered. I Chronicles 16:11,12

Some memories are sweet.
Some memories are sorrowful.
How easy it is to bask in the sweet, and quickly run from the sorrowful.

And yet, Scripture asks us to REMEMBER.
Not the hurt and the pain, but the work of the Lord in the midst of both.
Because good or bad, sensational or sorrowful, He allows it all.
I know, O Lord, that Your rules are righteous,
and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. Psalm 119:75

As the 12th anniversary of the loss of our son Matthew draws near, I must choose to remember

And so, I will.

I will remember who God is, His faithfulness, how He worked in the dark and devastating days surrounding the stillbirth, and how He has used Matthew's life for His glory by allowing me and a team of women to offer comfort and hope to those who have suffered the same sorrow. 
Losing a child in the womb, whether through miscarriage or stillbirth, is a grief only those who have walked through it can imagine or understand. We need each other. To talk, cry, share, ask questions, scream, hug, listen, and pray. And to do these things, to empathize with a woman who is drowning in fresh grief after losing her precious baby, we have to remember our own pain. Our own story. Our own heartbreak and tears. And most important ... how God showed Himself a faithful, loving, comforting Father when we didn't think we could get through another day. 
Once we connect with those memories, we are able to identify with her pain, and then - sit down beside her in the cold, dark pit until she is ready to climb out into the sunlight once again.

We do not remember in order to re-open old wounds or invite bitterness into our hearts.
We remember so we can offer PRAISE to a God who "heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." For He is a loving and merciful God who sits with us in our darkest moments, never leaves us, never forsakes us, and promises that He is our rock and our fortress. A place where we can run - and feel safe.

My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Psalm 42:6

When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord,
and my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple. Jonah 2:7

I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember Your wonders of old. Psalm 77:11

Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.
Full of splendor and majesty is His work, and His righteousness endures forever.
He has caused His wondrous works to be remembered;
the Lord is gracious and merciful. Psalm 111:1-4

I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all that You have done;
I ponder the work of Your hands.
I stretch out my hands to You;
my soul thirsts for You like a parched land. Psalm 143:5

3.11.2018

A quote that stands alone.

If in the integrity of my heart I speak the words, 
"Thy will be done," 
I must be willing, if the answer requires it,
that my will be undone

- Elisabeth Elliott

3.10.2018

Comfort.

As I think of those who are fighting different battles of varying intensity on this rainy and melancholy day, this quote provides perspective - and peace. 
I pray it will bring comfort to others as well. ♥

"The Lord is my Shepherd - I shall not want!" Psalm 23:1
"I shall not want!" Surely not! He is the Good Shepherd who gave His life for His sheep; and if He has loved me, and given Himself for me - then what will He withhold?

Oh that I knew Him better, and trusted Him as He deserves! Then I would be kept quiet from fear of evil, and be ever assured that He will supply all my needs, according to His riches in glory.

Do I need guidance? The Good Shepherd goes before His sheep - He instructs and teaches us in the way we should go.

Do I wander - and need to be reclaimed? He seeks and finds His straying ones, "He restores my soul, and leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake."

Am I wounded? He binds up my wounds and heals me.

Do I need rest and refreshment? "He makes me to lie down in green pastures, and leads me beside the still waters."

Do I need encouragement? "His rod and His staff, they comfort me."

Do I need provision? "He spreads a table before me in the presence of my enemies."

My Shepherd is infinitely wise and kind and gracious. Surely then, "Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever!"

"The Lord my Shepherd is,
I shall be well supplied;
Since He is mine, and I am His,
What can I want beside?"

("Every Day!" 1872) author unknown

3.08.2018

What I NEEDED.

The night before I left for my vacation, I prayed with each of my children because I wanted their last memory of us together to be connected to the Lord, not just me. It was a sweet time of prayer and conversation ending with hugs and ''goodbyes." A wonderful way to part with those you love!

The Lord used Micah's prayer in a unique way. Somewhere in the midst of his supplications on my behalf, he said, "I pray that my mom will be a blessing to everyone she is with on her trip." DING! DING! DING! Next stop, Conviction Alley! In all of my excitement to spend time with dear friends whom I had not seen in almost a decade, it never occurred to me to think or pray about how I could serve and bless them. I was only focused on being with them because I missed them and wanted to reconnect. {insert headshake here}
Once Micah uttered that phrase, however, being a blessing to my sisters was the only thing I could think about. My perspective completely shifted, and I was thankful. What better way to spend a vacation with three unique, godly, loving women than seeking to make them smile, ease their burdens, listen to them share their hearts, pray for them, and encourage them in their faith. The Lord gave me nine days to live out the "One Another's" of Scripture - and it was a delight!
I cannot speak for my sisters, but I know that I left each one feeling encouraged, stirred up to love and good deeds, and completely refreshed ❤ - and I pray they felt the same.

Each of my friends is unique.
Jenny
Kelsi
Michelle
Yet each one loves the Lord, her husband, her children, her family, friends, and ministry.
If we had nothing else in common, we share the greatest thing in common - Jesus Christ. And He is enough to sustain our friendships throughout eternity. Praise Him for such a gift!

Though each woman is different, we all shared the same joys.
Mutual enthusiasm and encouragement.
Fantastic conversations that mattered.
Lots and lots of laughter!
Adventures and new experiences.
But the best part was being TOGETHER - because I never thought I would be able to experience such an opportunity.

A little less than a year ago, I sat in our van in the driveway staring at our house while tears poured down my cheeks. I was overwhelmed with parenting, homeschooling, learning needs, behavior issues with our daughter, personal struggles in the hearts of my teens, and outside pressures. I literally cried out to the Lord, "Am I EVER going to be free?!?"
I could only see what was in front of me - and it was more than I could bear. I felt trapped in my own home - everyone needed me - and most of them were completely dependent on me. Leaving the house could not last more than a few hours, and I rarely did that because the cost was too high. Even with the full support of Dennis, the needs of my children outweighed my own personal need for space, fellowship, and peace.
As the tears continued to roll, I knew I had to surrender. I thought of every woman who had struggles far beyond what I was experiencing and knew that if this was the life God was calling me to, there was only one response I could give. "Yes, Lord." And I refused to leave the van until I could speak those two words with full and sincere conviction.

Fast forward eight months. I am standing on the other side of the country. Alone.

As I stood on North Carolina soil the first day, I marveled at the goodness of God. A woman who didn't feel she could leave her house for a day was about to spend ten days enjoying good friends, God's creation, new sights, and unique experiences. Because the Lord was faithful to remind me how far I had come (literally and figuratively), I purposed in my heart that I would soak in every moment - fully present and fully aware - for it was He who placed me 3,000 miles away, with three precious sisters, "for such a time as this."

When I planned my trip, I thought it was what I wanted.
But the Lord made it clear that my trip was what I needed.
And I am, and forever will be - grateful.

3.07.2018

Quote. Godly PEACE.

The peace of God does not come from the removal of difficult circumstances. 
The peace of God comes from the ability to handle difficult circumstances with
a settled sense of confidence in God. 
- Philip DeCourcy

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6, 7

3.05.2018

HOME!


I enjoyed every single moment of my vacation and hope I do not have to wait another eighteen years to experience the opportunity again. It was a privilege - and I was blessed!
But coming HOME after a wonderful time away is always a delight!
Thank you for such a generous gift, D. ❤ I truly, truly appreciate it!


I woke up this morning to find all three of these people in my bed!
When they opened their eyes and saw my face in daylight their own faces broke into huge smiles.
Reunited - and it feels GREAT!


I missed my guys!
These three kept hugging me when I got home.
Though we are all incredibly independent, able to be apart without pining to be together, we always appreciate our reunions. These faces make me very, very happy!

Happy Birthday, Caleb!


Caleb,

What a JOY it is to be your mom!
Since the day you were born you have made us laugh with your funny facial expressions and sense of humor. You have always been light-hearted and easy to please, which makes loving you a delight.

You are thoughtful - thinking of what would make others happy or feel wanted.
You are compassionate - quick to serve those ignored and forgotten by everyone else.
You are kind - willing to make people laugh and feel good.
You are affectionate - always ready with a hug and an "I love you."
You are creative - designing new Lego creations and inventing games to play.
You are sensitive - hurt by harsh words and unkind attitudes.
You are a good friend - encouraging, faithful, and desiring their company.

I am proud of you, Caleb.
You have to work harder than others to succeed, and though it frustrates you, you keep trying.
Never lose that character quality, son. The world does not care about your struggles - they just want you to do things the way they think things should be done. But the Lord created your mind to work differently, and He has a purpose for doing so. Seek HIS way first and fastest, and always remember that obedience to the Lord is the measure of success - not the response of others.
Walk in obedience every day, begging the Lord for the strength and grace to do so, and make His pleasure your greatest pursuit.

I love you, Caleb.
You are a sweet and loving son, and I am grateful you are mine!

Happy 14th Birthday!

3.03.2018

Vacation Day 9 - Indiana - Birthday Party and Conversations!


Today I had the privilege of being a part of William's 1st Birthday!
We celebrated with the UP theme - William wearing suspenders like the old man, a sky backdrop for photos, a wooden house tied to balloons for table decor, and colorful paper goods and cupcakes.
The little man made a great impression on the guests and everyone enjoyed him!

I was the photographer's assistant, which basically meant screaming, hollering and making ridiculous noises to get William's attention so he would smile in all of the photos. And it worked! Good times!




 Partying is hard work for a little guy!
It was all I could do to keep him awake until we got home so he could settle in for a nice long nap. 
*
*
*
Daniel, Michelle and I were tired after a late night at the movies and rising early to prep for the party, so we came home, changed into sweats, and spent the afternoon/evening lounging around the house, talking, laughing, and enjoying the quiet rest. 
After dinner, we were craving ice cream so we went to the store with the intent of returning home to watch a movie while slurping our favorite flavors from a spoon. But it never happened because Daniel said, "I have a question that I forgot to ask earlier ..." which launched us into a four-hour conversation. The three of us have talked nonstop since I arrived, but this discussion was unique - and needed - and it was a perfect way to end our time together.

Tomorrow we will worship the Lord together at church, and then I will fly home to be reunited with my family. I cannot wait to see my people, but I will not lie ... I am going to miss Jenny, Kelsi, and Michelle. These past nine days have been wonderful, full of new experiences, and I am beyond thankful that they invited me into their worlds for a short time. ♥

3.02.2018

Vacation Day 8 - Indiana - Walks, Shopping, Dinner and a Movie!


This morning Daniel went to work and Michelle and I took a nice long walk along the Ohio River!
The recent rains have flooded the area, so it was interesting to see the overflow.
It was COLD and sunny and windy ... perfect!





After meandering through River City, we witnessed the sunset on the Ohio River.


Michelle and I thought it would be fun to act like tourists and take photos of EVERYthing on our dinner/movie date. I will not make you suffer by including all of them here, but suffice it to say we laughed a lot and enjoyed every minute!
At first, Daniel thought it was the dumbest idea ever, but after photo #22 he joined in the merriment and was a cooperative and enthusiastic model. <big grin>
#datenightinindiana


#bruburger
#waitingtobeseated


#danielishangryandneedsfoodnow


#canyoutellwelikedthenachos
#wemayaswellhavelickedtheplate


#obligatoryphotooffood


#atthemovies
#theblackpanther


#faceofamomonadatewithoutherbaby
#freedom

*
*
Thank you for a wonderful, relaxing, and refreshing day, Michelle!
And thank you for a fun and memorable date night, Daniel!

3.01.2018

Vacation Day 7 - Indiana - Daniel, Michelle, and William!


I get to spend the last three days of my trip with my Michelle!
She and Kelsi made the sacrifice to drive almost two hours each way in order to transfer me from Tennessee to Indiana. Michelle and I started talking when I climbed into her car at 12:30 pm, Daniel joined us at 5:00 pm, and we all said good night at 12:30 am. 
This is the first time I have been able to talk to Daniel for more than a few minutes at a time since they were in a long distance dating relationship and have been in Indiana since they said, "I do!" and I must say - he is HILARIOUS. I have not laughed so hard in a long time!

We have a casual, relaxed weekend planned - and - William's 1st birthday party!

Tonight Michelle and I reminisced about our relationship. What started as discipleship five years ago became a friendship built on mutual respect, and one that we pray will last a lifetime.
She is not the same woman she was when I met her, and it is a joy to see her in her own home with her husband and son, serving the Lord, and filled with gratefulness and contentment.
How thankful I am for her, and how blessed I am that she calls me friend! ❤